When Does Formula 1 Season Start in 2020? Drivers, Calendar Changes, Dates and Where to Watch on TV in USA

Lewis Hamilton could equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record of seven world titles this year, but the attention is firmly focused on matters off the track as the Formula 1 season gets underway this weekend in Australia.

Like other major sporting events across the world, Formula 1 has fallen victim of the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, organizers of the Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled for the weekend of April 17-19, confirmed the race had been postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of the virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19.

Over 3,800 people have died since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There are over 110,000 cases globally, with 62,000 recovered as of Monday morning.

Next week's Bahrain's Grand Prix, meanwhile, will go ahead but without fans, marking the first time a Formula 1 race has been held behind closed doors.

Two teams—Ferrari and Alpha Tauri—are based in Italy, which is battling the highest number of cases in Europe and where up to 16 million people were placed in quarantine over the weekend.

The provision applies to the northern region of Lombardy and 14 other provinces in northern and central Italy, including Modena, where Ferrari's Maranello headquarters are located.

Both teams will require special permission to travel to Melbourne, which hosts the inaugural race of the season for the 22nd time in the last 24 years.

Unlike in Bahrain, doors at Melbourne Park will be open to the fans.

"I'm not feeling at all concerned going to mass gatherings or walking down the streets in Victoria," Professor Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer for the Australian government, said in a statement.

"So I don't think that there's a risk at the Grand Prix."

Here's all you need to know ahead of the 2020 Formula 1 season.

Melbourne, Formula 1
Preparations are made ahead of the 2020 Australian Formula One Grand Prix on March 9 in Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne Park hosts the inaugural race of the 2020 season on March, 15. Sam Tabone/WireImage)/Getty

When does the 2020 Formula 1 season start?

The new F1 season gets underway this weekend in Melbourne, Australia and runs until the end of November, with the final of the 22 races scheduled in Abu Dhabi on the weekend of November 27-29.

Will the season go ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak?

As it stands, yes. Organizers of the Australian Grand Prix have repeatedly insisted the event this weekend will go ahead as planned.

However, the Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled to be the fourth race of the season, was called off last week due to the outbreak of coronavirus and has been postponed indefinitely.

The Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for next week will be held without fans, a first in Formula 1 history.

Last week, Formula 1 said it will not host a World Championship race in a country that prevents any team entering as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

New teams, (almost) same old drivers

The offseason was surprisingly calm by Formula 1 standards. Esteban Ocon returns to the sport after a one-year hiatus to replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault, while 2019 Formula 2 Championship runner-up Nicholas Latifi replaces Robert Kubica at Williams.

Meanwhile, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull's sister team, has since been renamed Scuderia AlphaTauri.

Any major offseason storylines?

Aside from the COVID-19 outbreak, the attention during the offseason has focused on Ferrari and, more specifically, on the team's engine unit.

FIA—motorsport's governing body—admitted it was not convinced Ferrari's engine was always legal last season but opted against pursuing the case any further as it thought it would not be able to prove its suspicions.

It has since reached a confidential settlement with the Scuderia, which prompted seven teams—Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri and Williams—to write to FIA demanding answers to their concerns.

The seven teams have set FIA until the middle of this week to respond, but the governing body on Friday received the "unanimous support" from FIA's world council—motorsport's legislative body.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during Day Three of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 28 in Barcelona, Spain. Mark Thompson/Getty

Calendar changes

COVID-19 outbreak permitting, Vietnam will make its Formula 1 debut next month when the first F1 World Championship race will be held at the Hanoi Street Circuit in the country's capital.

A month later, Formula 1 will return to the Netherlands for the first time since 1985, with Zandvoort hosting the revived Dutch Grand Prix. The German Grand Prix, however, has fallen out of the calendar.

Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton?

Hamilton has won the last three world titles and bookmakers expect him to equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record of seven championships this season. According to William Hill, the Briton is a 4/7 favorite, ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen at 5/1.

The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel follow at 11/2 and 10/1, with Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in between the two at 8/1.

TV coverage

Every race of the 2020 season will be shown live in the U.S. on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC with a live stream available via ESPN's digital platforms.

When Does Formula 1 Season Start in 2020? Drivers, Calendar Changes, Dates and Where to Watch on TV in USA | Sports